First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

England is an island, which the ancients, because of the white cliffs that mariners sailing there saw, called Albion. Some call it Brittania after Brutus Silvius, son of the Latin king, who conquered the island of Albion in which the giants lived; and so he called it Brittania after himself. It was called Great Britain to distinguish it from Little Britain which borders on Gaul. But now it is called England after a mighty English king. The island is triangular, and lies to the north and to the west. It is separated from all the neighboring countries. It begins at lower Germany and extends to Gaul, or France, and Spain, in the west. As Brutus, the Roman, chose to live in England, he built the fortified city of Trimoantem on the river Tamesis (Thames). The region was productive of all necessaries of life and the city was comparable to Troy, of ancient memory. Brutus, as they say, had three sons, Lotrinus, Albenatus, and Cambrius. They divided the island among themselves. Lotrino, being the elder, received half of it, and it was called Lothria after him. And it is said that in Lothria lies the city of Londinum, which is much visited by merchants and receives shipments of merchandise. There also the kings and princes of England, and the councilors of the people, as well as merchants often meet. Albenetus received one fourth of the island, which was called Albion after him. This is now called Scotland, and it is the upper part of the island, toward the north. It has small rivers, and is separated from England by mountains. Cambria fell to the lot of the third son, Cambri. It is now called Tyle, and is an island that lies to the north and west. It was the last with which the Romans made acquaintance. When in the summer the sun changes its course, there is no light there, and during the winter solstice, there is no day there. The greater part of this island is fertile, and possesses cattle, gold, silver, and iron. From it are shipped raw material, cattle and good hunting dogs. The island is surrounded by other islands. One of these is Hibernia, which approaches England in size. It is separated from England by a small sea. Thereabout are also the Orkneys. The holy Pope Gregory II sent worthy men there to convert the people to the faith; and thereafter many kings appeared, illustrious for their miracles. In this land are also many rivers, as well as a variety of metals. Bede describes their histories best.

Bede (673-735), was a Benedictine monk from England whose most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("The Ecclesiastical History of the English People") has gained him the title "The father of English history." Britannia comprehended the island of England and Scotland, which was also called Albion, while Hibernia, or Ireland, was usually spoken of as a separate island. However, it is sometimes included under the general name of the Insulae Britannicae, or British Isles, which included the smaller islands around the coast of Great Britain. The etymology of the word Britannia is uncertain, but most writers derive it from the Celtic word brith or brit ("painted"), with reference to the custom of the inhabitants in staining their bodies with a blue color; whatever may be the etymology of the word, it is certain that it was used by the inhabitants themselves, since in the Gaelic the inhabitants are called Brython and their language Brythoneg. The name Albion (albus in Latin is "white") is probably derived from the white cliffs of the island; but writers, who derived the names of all lands and people from a mythical ancestor, connected the name with one Albion, the son of Neptune.

It was not until a late period that the Greeks and Romans obtained any knowledge of Britain. The first certain knowledge was from the merchants of Massilia (Marseilles) in the late fourth century BCE. From this time it was generally believed that the island was in the form of a triangle, an error that continued to prevail, even at a later period. Another important mistake was with reference to the position of Britain in relation to Gaul and Spain. As the northwest coast of Spain was supposed to extend too far to the north, and the west coast of Gaul to run northwest, the lower part of Britain was believed to lie between Spain and Gaul. The Romans first became acquainted with the island through Caesar’s invasions in 55 and 54 BCE.


This illustration is ostensibly designed to represent England (Anglie Provincia). We have before us, as usual, a fortified medieval city, located on an unusually steep mountainside, and divided by a river, probably the Thames, which flows along with a strong current. All is towers, turrets, walls and battlements of varying shapes and sizes. There are no churches, except for one structure that slightly resembles a house of worship. There are no spires or crosses.